South India is famous for its plethora of rich traditions of ancient literature, classical music, conventional dance, customary arts, tantalizing cuisine and above all, majestic temples, which are collectively considered as the "jewel in the crown" of South India. Temple jewelry, noted for their regal look, added another feather in the cap of South India's preserved cultural heritage. Temple jewelry dates back to the 9th century. These divine looking jewelry beautified the appearances of gods and goddesses in temples. Later they was extremely popular among the women. Temple jewelry is often patronized by many classical dancers and highlighted their unique look. Temple jewelry has continued to impress the people for several centuries. Temple jewelry is now in vogue and is customised to suit the diverse taste of buyers.
How my fascination of temple jewelry began
I grew up in a South Indian family where the women in the family attached a lot of significance to jewelry as part of their lifestyle. They considered valuable jewelry as an ideal investment. I recall that throughout my childhood and teenage-hood, I often accompanied my mother and at times my grandmother and aunts to established jewelry stores with reputed brand names. I was dazzled by an enormous array of jewelry pieces of all kinds including temple jewelry displayed in such stores. I learnt a great deal about Indian jewelry, their worth, value and cost details from my mother. Temple jewelry made a grand comeback a few years ago . Temple jewelry is either sold by the ancient family clans or is replicated. Temple jewelry is a huge hit among the female buyers of all ages and graced the appearance of brides and guests at weddings. My mother has a pretty collection of temple jewelry which she has inherited and acquired over the years. The current trend of wearing temple jewelry has piqued my interest and ignited my deep admiration for them.
A brief golden history of temple jewelry
Temple jewelry was prevalent during the celebrated historical periods in South India such as the Chola dynasty, the Pandya dynasty and the Krishnadeva Raya rule from the 9th century till the 16th century. Temple jewelry was popularly worn by the kings, queens and other people of important positions. They had assigned the experienced goldsmiths and craftsmen to chisel the temple jewelry accessories for them. Also these jewelry pieces were presented to the temple by the royal figures, goldsmiths and devotees as offerings to the Hindu deities and this is how it got its name. Temple jewelry pieces were created out of finest gold and embedded with precious stones of rare value and the owners of these jewelry pieces decided to donate them to the temples in order to preserve them more carefully. These antique jewelry pieces are still seen today in temples due to the cautious protection and discreet scrutiny by the temple authorities for numerous years.
Metals, gemstones and designs employed in the creation of temple jewelry
Silver (coated with gold)
Base-metallic coating such as copper covered in gold
Rubies (cut or uncut)
Emeralds (cut or uncut )
Diamonds (cut or uncut )
Second grade gemstones
Materials used in creating temple jewelry
Temple jewelry is chiefly made of pure gold though silver and base-metallic coating studded with second grade gemstones are other economical alternatives. Temple jewelry is studded with precious and semi-precious gemstones to endow them with a classic look. Rubies, emeralds, diamonds and kemp stones are commonly used and can be in cut or uncut form. These precious gemstones are epitomized as they add an unparalleled touch to the appearance of temple jewelry. Kemp stones come in either reddish-maroon color or dark green color. Temple jewelry come in diverse designs be it traditional such as waves, dots and lines; motif such as floral shapes like lotus flower and birds like peacocks and swans ; abstract such as zig-zag and interspersion of shapes; and temple designs such as gods and goddesses, dancers and royal figure statuettes.
YouTube video on the crafting of temple jewelry
List of temple jewelry pieces
Temple jewelry consist of several pieces which are distinguishable from each other and are created in their peerless forms that enable them to gain instant recognition in the entire market of Indian jewelry. These temple jewelry pieces are most commonly used by Indian female classical dancers and hence they are also called dance jewelry. They range from tiny nose rings to heavy anklets.
Temple jewelry is categorised under two groups:
(i) Regular temple jewelry : Women wear temple jewelry on any ceremony besides weddings such as temple pilgrimages, baby showers, festivals, etc.
This list of regular temple jewelry pieces are listed as below:
- Necklaces and chokers
- Bangles and bracelets
- Rings and toe-rings
(ii) Occasional temple jewelry : These ornaments are used especially by classical dancers for dance performances and brides on wedding days.
This list of occasional temple jewelry pieces are: